Handling Unique Menstrual Health & Management Challenges for Girls amidst COVID-19
Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum being a dynamic youth led organization thought of innovative ways on how to engage young people, CSOs, policy makers among others during the lock down. Have you attended any of our webinars during this lock down? I believe for many of you it’s a yes and if you haven’t these happen bi weekly on Thursdays. Don’t miss out on our webinar series because the panelists and participants share powerful insights.
The first webinar series happened on 15th April 2020 around menstrual health management where Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum partnered with the Ministry of Education and Sports (Uganda) and She Decides Movement. The goal of the webinar was to draw likely minded Civil Society organizations (CSOs), gender equality and women’s rights activists into conversations on creating a society in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically and with dignity.It was a well attended session with over 160 participants , 5 panelists who included Rosette Nanyanzi from Ministry of Education, Mary Namwebe from UNICEF Uganda, Ceaser Kimbugwe from Water Aid Uganda, Lillibet Namakula from Public Health Ambassadors – Uganda and Puleng Letsi from African Coalition for Menstrual Health Management.
According to Plan International, in Uganda 28% of girls miss school because they are menstruating. They meet challenges in access and affordability of menstrual products for example pads and end up improvising with materials that are not hygienic such as cow dung, old used clothes among others, lack of proper sanitation infrastructure both in schools and at homes and those that have them are in a really poor condition with no doors or the women and girls have to share the facilities with men and boys and insufficient knowledge of menstrual hygiene management. This is indeed a worrying situation that calls for joint efforts by all implementing partners.
The panelists shared from an experienced point of view and best practices being done in their respective organizations such as providing re-usable pads to students as well as providing information about personal hygiene during menstruation as well as the efforts that the Ministry of Education has put in place to ensure effective coordination and implementation of menstrual health management programs across the country such as developed manuals for menstruation hygiene management to ensure the same and right information is being taught to different communities, developed national guidelines for Menstrual Hygiene Management in schools, integrated Menstrual Hygiene Management into our policies and also included elements of Menstrual Hygiene Management in the sexuality education framework.
In regard to the questions, the panelists shared the challenges that girls in vulnerable settings like hard to reach areas face in regard to Menstrual Hygiene Management among which included lack of access to the pads, pads are costly, lack of water for use, having energy suckers in the community, being stigmatized in communities, lack of separate sanitary facilities and seen as profane.
To address some of the challenges surrounding Menstrual Hygiene Management Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum makes reusable sanitary pads and trains the young people at the youth hub on how to make them among others. Some of the recommendations made during the webinar were ; developing of indicators that can be used by Menstrual Hygiene Management advocates to measure the progress around the work being done, formulate a national plan on Menstrual Hygiene Management, increase on the sensitization around demystifying the myths and taboos surrounding Menstrual Hygiene Management as well as having a joint effort of all Menstrual Hygiene Management advocates giving vulnerable women and girls access to free products in an attempt to create menstrual equity.